Phub Dem  | Paro

When residents of Paro are on Tshechu break, a group of tourist guides who call themselves ‘Active Covid-19’ are busy in the fields.

They are engaged in land development works in an apple orchard in Kyichu.

Tshering Paldon, who has been working as a guide for 12 years initiated the commercial farming project.

She and seven other guides started the project and aiming to economically support guides affected by Covid-19.

Commercial farming was taken up to meaningfully engage the guides, provide an alternative source of income to those who are solely depended on tourism and to reduce the impact of food import with the lockdown of neighboring countries, she said.

Unlike her friends, Tshering Paldon is a permanent senior guide with Druk Asia and the company continues to pay her salary.

She said her salary could support her comfortably but there were many friends whose sole source of income was completely cut off. “With the little saving, we are investing in this project.”

The eight founding members contributed their saving and pay other guides who work as daily wage earners.

There are about 22 guides who work as daily wage earners as of yesterday.

There are around 115 guides residing in Paro.

The group is of the stand that they contacted every guide in Paro to engage them in the farming.

The land was leased for two years from a private individual, Tashi Choden. “The land was leased for free to which we are grateful,” Tshering Paldon said.

The group is expected to carry out the farming activities for at least two years.

She said that the pandemic might end in a few months but the impact would stay on for some years.

A freelancer guide, Tshering Chuki Wangchuk, said that without a stable income, 80 percent of the guides were affected.

She said that although the government was planning to provide support and alternatives to employ those affected, the actions were not immediate. “If we wait for the directives, the vegetable season would soon end. That’s why we agreed to lease land.”

She added that during peak season her income was about Nu 70,000 a month.

Another guide said that the project would support him and other guides financially to pay house rent and buy groceries.

A freelancer, Kishor Kumar Thapa, said other guides without any sources of income should join the group. “Don’t feel shy. We welcome anyone willing to join the team.”

Guide Association of Bhutan helped the group in completing the procedures. And Paro dzongkhag administration provided technical support, free machinery, water tanks, seeds, pipes, and greenhouse.